Be careful whom you celebrate
Back in April, I attended the interment of my aunt in Kearney, Missouri. Now, I know what you're thinking: this must have something to do with Jesse James, the outlaw. Well, as it happens, my aunt was being laid to rest in supposedly the very same cemetery as old Jesse. (The "supposedly" is used here, as there's a theory that James survived Robert Ford's assassination attempt and is buried in Texas. But in 1995, the remains in Kearney were exhumed to test its DNA, the results of which should forever lay theories of James's survival to rest.)
Anyway, after my aunt's interment (that's a burial, for those of you in New York City), I quickly found Jesse's grave and even got a snapshot of it, courtesy of a fellow with a smartphone who immediately emailed the photo to me. It's an excellent photo, and I urge you to check out the original full-size version and then click on the photo to expand it. At the bottom of the top stone, one sees flowers, coins, and two bullets just in front of a Confederate Battle Flag. Some of the lower stone has been chipped away, which this video explains.
Even though he was a thief and a killer, Jesse's grave seems to have become a shrine. Perhaps the reason for its shrine status is because Jesse was a Confederate. You see, Kearney is in Clay County, which is part of a ribbon of counties across the middle of Missouri that is referred to as "Little Dixie." One might even include counties to the north that have towns like Macon and Atlanta.
Many Americans have a "thing" for bad boys and make heroes of them. Along with Jesse James, they celebrate bloodthirsty revolutionaries like Che Guevara, cop-killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal, drug lords like Joaquín Guzmán (El Chapo) whom they lionize in songs (narcocorridos), robbers like Bonnie and Clyde, and all manner of scum and villainy not fit for society. Maybe they'd have a different bunch of heroes had they been victims of their intemperate heroes.
This celebration of criminals goes back decades. But nowadays, if one isn't a big-time evildoer, one can still ascend into the pantheon if one is a victim like, say, George Floyd. Mr. Floyd certainly didn't deserve the treatment he got from the Minneapolis police, but neither does he deserve the shrines. He resisted arrest and had used fentanyl, microscopic amounts of which are fatal. Floyd also had quite a rap sheet, with stints in prison. Should he really be beatified?
Consider another type of hero:
The University of Missouri in Columbia was the first university established in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, a rather smart investment made by one Thomas Jefferson. In 1883, descendants of Jefferson donated his original tombstone to UMC, which "was unveiled at the university on July 4, 1885."
On July 6, I visited the campus of UMC, and, strolling on the quadrangle, I learned that Jefferson's tombstone had been encased in acrylic to protect it from student vandals. In September of 2020, the Columbia Missourian reported:
The acrylic case was put in place by MU to ramp up security around the obelisk after incidents of vandalism occurred near it and the bronze statue of Jefferson sitting nearby.
"We took this action to protect it from vandalism," MU spokesperson Christian Basi said in an email. "This is Jefferson's original tombstone, and it was entrusted to the university. We have a responsibility to ensure that it is preserved appropriately." [Link added.]
Many took to Twitter after the case was built to criticize the decision.
The university might do a little introspection to see if it could be responsible for engendering its students' self-righteous indignation at Jefferson's obelisk. How do dumb kids get the idea that they are moral arbiters of anything if not by their professors? Students are being told that they're morally superior. They have no doubts and make heroes and martyrs out of ne'er-do-wells like George Floyd while destroying the shrines to those whose greatness they have neither the maturity nor sophistication to understand.
Students who harm our heritage, like Jefferson's tombstone, should be expelled and indicted. Teachers who fill students' minds with garbage should be summarily fired. On July 18, Mark Levin provided a roadmap on how you can "push back" against the idiocy in education; watch this four-minute video of it.
America needs a better bunch of heroes. I suggest the old ones, like Jefferson.
Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.
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